Sunny Balwani's Sentence Is Longer Than Elizabeth Holmes'

Ex-Theranos president and COO was convicted of 12 fraud, conspiracy counts in July
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 7, 2022 4:45 PM CST
Sunny Balwani's Sentence Is Longer Than Elizabeth Holmes'
Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani, right, the former lover and business partner of Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes, walks into federal court in San Jose, Calif., on June 24, 2022.   (AP Photo/Michael Liedtke, File)

US District Judge Edward Davila has decided Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani should be punished more severely than his former lover and Theranos business partner Elizabeth Holmes. Balwani was sentenced to 155 months in federal prison Wednesday, just short of 13 years. Balwani was convicted of 12 fraud and conspiracy counts in July. Prosecutors had sought a 15-year sentence, which was harsher than the 11.25 years Holmes was handed three weeks ago. His lawyers requested he serve just four to 10 months, while a probation report recommended nine years. Balwani, 57, served as Theranos' president and COO for six years while remaining romantically involved with Holmes until a "bitter split" in 2016, per the AP.

The two trials had somewhat different outcomes. Unlike Balwani, Holmes was acquitted on several charges of defrauding and conspiring against people who paid for Theranos blood tests that produced misleading results and could have pointed patients toward the wrong treatment. The jury in Holmes’ trial also deadlocked on three charges. She was found guilty on four counts. Balwani was convicted on all 12 felony counts. In court documents, Balwani's lawyers painted him as a hardworking immigrant who moved from India to the US during the 1980s to become the first member of his family to attend college.

Balwani founded an online startup that he sold for millions during the dot-com boom of the 1990s; he went on to invest about $5 million in a stake in Theranos that eventually became worth about $500 million on paper. "Mr. Balwani is not the same as Elizabeth Holmes," his lawyers wrote in a memo to the judge. "He actually invested millions of dollars of his own money." NBC Bay Area reporter Scott Budman tweeted that the defense emphasized that argument prior to sentencing. "Decisions were made by Elizabeth Holmes. The position that investors lost everything, and Mr. Balwani should be on the hook is wrong ... one of those investors is Mr. Balwani."

But Davila pushed back on that argument, telling the defense, "Your client hired HIS DERMATOLOGIST to run the lab at Theranos," per Budman. He tweets the prosecution offered this: "There was a complicated relationship between Sunny Balwani and Elizabeth Holmes. Sometimes she was leading, sometimes he was leading." (Read more Sunny Balwani stories.)

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